Climate Battle Takes to the Streets

In Cancun and San Francisco, a call for climate solutions from the ground up.

Photo: Gretchen Weber.

Chanting the Spanish equivalent of “The fight continues!”, hundreds of protesters made their way through the streets of downtown Cancun Tuesday, to call for dramatic action on climate change.  Located about an hour by bus away from the Moon Palace where the UN talks are being held, the procession brought together climate activists from around the world, members of Mexico’s indigenous communities, and dozens of journalists eager to report on one of the few major protests at COP16.

Coordinated by a network of climate groups who dubbed Tuesday a “Global Day of Action – 1,000 Cancuns,” the march was timed with demonstrations around the world, including one in San Francisco.  In Cancun, the marchers chanted, sang, beat drums, and danced in the streets, called for workers’ rights, protested inaction on global warming, and in some cases, denounced capitalism.

“We’re marching for life, and for social and environmental justice,” said Sara Mersha of the group Grassroots Global Justice for All. Mersha came down from Boston. “Because we want folks who are negotiating the COP to know that we support people solutions for climate justice, and we don’t support false solutions like REDD or the carbon market.”

REDD is the acronym for a deforestation-reduction mechanism that has become a major topic here at COP16.  The scheme has not yet been worked out, but generally, it involves payment for developing nations not to burn their forests and carbon offset credits for companies in the developed countries.  Many inside the Moon Palace think REDD could be one of the few areas where serious progress could be made this year toward an international climate deal.

Nonetheless many marchers in Cancun on Tuesday wore or carried signs that said, “No REDD.”  Opponents fear that REDD programs will drive indigenous peoples off land where they have lived for generations.

Meanwhile in San Francisco, locals gathered outside a Mission District parking lot that the city is planning on transforming into affordable housing and a community garden.

“Communities have the solutions in their hands, from urban gardening, to providing food for their communities, to protecting local water resources, to creating energy alternatives,” said Ananda Lee Tan, a coordinator for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, one of the groups participating in the Global Day of Action. He echoed the sentiments of the Cancun protesters, adding that the reason for the Mission District rally was to “demonstrate local community opposition to the corporate destruction of this planet through climate change.”